Cameron Monaghan talks thriller ‘Shattered,’ effective directing, working with stunt coordinators, appeal of specific roles

Noah Levine, Life & Arts Film Columnist

“Shattered,” a brand new thriller directed by Luis Prieto (“White Lines”), releases in select  theaters, including Austin’s Galaxy Highland 10, and on demand Jan. 14. Cameron Monaghan (“Gotham,” “Shameless”) stars as Chris, a young millionaire who, after selling his successful tech company, enjoys the privileges of his new-found wealth in a secluded mountain home. As the film progresses, Chris begins to fall for Sky (Lilly Krug), a local girl who grows up close to the rich recluse. After an injury forces Chris into a wheelchair, Sky volunteers to be his at-home nurse. From there, “Shattered” descends into a maddening sprial of violence and deception in the style of a classic 1990s erotic thriller. The Daily Texan spoke with star Cameron Monaghan about his time on the film and work as an actor. 


The Daily Texan: What is the collaboration between actor, director and fight coordinator like?

Cameron Monaghan: We had a great stunt coordinator, but also Luis, our director, really knew what he wanted. We had a lot of rehearsals. That being said, we were on a really accelerated filming schedule. We shot this entire movie in three and a half weeks. Working on a pretty small budget, I think it was really impressive and amazing how much they were able to get done and how quickly and effectively they did it. It was really exciting to play a role that was this physical, balls to the wall. Obviously, we were working with (Frank Grillo), who is extremely experienced in stunts. He was very capable and intense in his physical movements. 


DT: How do you prepare to give a performance where you were literally screaming in agony?

CM: You don’t. You can’t (prepare) for that. You have to make peace with the fact that it’s going to be extremely uncomfortable and difficult and use that as much as you can. What attracted me to this story was the fact that it was really crazy in how far it goes with its violence, intensity and willingness to go there. I really see this movie as kind of a midnight picture grindhouse movie. It’s a little bit of a throwback in a lot of ways, and the only way that you can really accomplish that is to just go full force at it. I mentioned that it was a really short filming schedule, so we were doing a lot in a day. The only practical way to do (everything) was to tie me up (in) a chair, throw a real cast on me, and just get these scenes done. So, I essentially spent three weeks screaming and crying, just trying to fight for my life. Then, I had like four days of being a normal person, so that was great!


DT: What draws you to take on specific roles?

CM: A lot of what drives me to a project is character more than anything. This one was an interesting challenge because it was a character I hadn’t really played before. Chris, in this movie, is a wealthy tech developer who sold his company super young, sort of in the vein of  Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs, (who) had success at an incredibly young age. But interestingly with Chris, he decided to cash out his chips and sequester and seclude himself in this kind of golden cage, gilded cell, this beautiful house atop of this hill looking down on everybody else. I thought that was an interesting character dynamic, what could be a really unlikable person on paper. Sometimes, I think Chris is a little challenging in whether or not you fully identify with him or like him, (but) there was something about him that I still felt empathy towards. I thought that there was something interesting about that character. I hadn’t really done a project in this genre before — this suspense, thriller, horror, romance, dark comedy, kind of hybrid of a movie. I was like, “You know what? I really kind of want to do something that is really genre-focused, pulpy and wild.” 


DT: Did you watch any specific films to prepare for your role in this movie?

CM: I watched the Korean film “I Saw the Devil.” I watched a lot of thrillers and horror movies from the 1990s and early 2000s. In a lot of ways, this movie was a bit of a throwback. Specifically, there was this genre of erotic thriller with “Basic Instinct,” “Body Heat,” “Single White Female.” These kinds of movies don’t really exist anymore. I thought it would be cool to have a movie that brings those back. I saw that in the script, and that attracted me to the project. I went back and rewatched a bunch of (films) that I hadn’t seen when I was a kid. The writer of (“Shattered”), David Loughery, wrote a couple movies sort of in that genre — one called “Obsessed” with Beyoncé, and one called “Lakeview Terrace” with Samuel L. Jackson. Those movies I remember also really liking when I was younger. I’m not sure that research was particularly informative, besides (for) tone. More than anything, they are really entertaining, great movies. There’s not much you can do to prepare for a performance like this besides throwing yourself in full force.


DT: As an actor, what is the biggest difference between TV and film work? 

CM: The distinguishing line between TV and film is quickly and rapidly disappearing. … I think that’s for a very good reason. There’s so much beautiful and profound stuff that’s being done on television right now and when you’re talking about these limited series and special event shows, a lot of them are bringing (to light) the meaning and examination of what it means to be a person in a way that a lot of films these days aren’t. That being said, there’s nothing quite like seeing a performance magnified 50 feet across. That’s something you have to be aware of if you’re an on-camera actor. When you are going in for a close up, you have to bring everything way down, because the subtlest of movements really do get magnified to the most incredible degrees. (However), I really wouldn’t put too much of a distinguishing line between TV and film these days, especially as an actor.  


DT: In your experience as an actor, what can a director do to make an actor’s life easier?

CM: It’s different on every project. A line of communication is really important. Actors can be really annoying sometimes with, “I have a million questions,” and they get in their head (thinking), “I don’t know if I look good in this. Should I be doing this?” I think that a responsible actor is more focused on trying to give the best performance of character, situation, dialogue and movements. (What helps is) having a line of communication of what the director is looking for, what they want, and how your puzzle piece is going to fit into a larger picture. 

Directors are generally people who not only have some sort of vision but are also bringing a lot of parts and people who are very good at their jobs together. If you (as a director) know, for example, something might be going on with the score in “this” scene, you might need to be informing the actors, so they are speaking over (the) music, or if you are going to leave a pause for something that is going to be happening (in the scene). There’s a lot of things that you wouldn’t be able to know instinctively as an actor. A director who is aware of that and has a strong idea of what they want is really important.